Samantha Spinner and the Super-Secret Plans: Russell Ginns

Book: Samantha Spinner and the Super-Secret Plans
Author: Russell Ginns
Illustrator: Barbara Fisinger
Pages: 256
Age Range: 8-12

SamanthaSpinnerSamantha Spinner and the Super-Secret Plans by Russell Ginns is the first book in a new madcap adventure series for middle grade readers. Samantha's Uncle Paul, who lives in an apartment above her family's garage, disappears one day. He leaves behind $2.4 billion for her older sister, the deed and player contracts for the New York Yankees for her younger brother. For Samantha he leaves ... a battered red umbrella.

After spending a few weeks moping about the unfairness of this, Samantha, with help from her little brother, Nipper, eventually figures out that the umbrella contains a secret map of the world. Samantha and Nipper set out on a quest to find out what happened to Uncle Paul. In the process they uncover super-cool modes of transportation, visit important cultural landmarks, and encounter dangerous and smelly ninjas, a mummy, and several stolen artifacts. Bet you didn't know that there's a secret hatch accessible from the Eiffel Tower that sends one down into a giant pneumatic tube. 

I enjoyed this book, but I think I would have loved it as a 10-year-old. In addition to the puzzles within the story, an appendix at the end reveals a series of puzzles that readers can go back and solve. The kids have essentially no adult supervision. And even the parts of the story that are just about Spinner family life are over-the-top and/or quirky. Like this:

"Samantha thought again about their family trip to Pacific Pandemonium. The visit had been cut short after Nipper insisted that Samantha sit next to him on the Holy-cow-a-bunga! roller coaster over and over again. After times around the winding, flipping, twisting track, Samantha had had enough and got off. Nipper stayed on and rode the Holy-cow-a-bunga! nine more times. Then he barfed mightily and the staff had to close the attraction while they cleaned out the car. The Spinners left the park right after that." (Page 58)

Chapter Twenty-Two is titled "Exceptionally Gross". And it is. I think that kids, especially boys, will love it, though. Between chapters there are excerpts from Samantha's journal, in which she explains the hidden secrets that they find around the world, like a chairlift that goes from Machu Picchu to Lima, Peru. These excerpts are in a different font, and written in a reporter-like tone that contrasts with the regular text (as above). For example:

"There is a hidden magtrain station in Seattle. It is located near Volunteer Park, about two miles from downtown. The entrance is below an ordinary-looking mailbox across from the brick water tower. 

Grasp the handle of the mailbox door and open it all the way. Hold it open for at least ten seconds, or until you hear the motor engage, before you let it close. Repeat this two more times. The ground beneath the mailbox will rise slowly, revealing a staircase." (Page 53)

There are also intermittent black and white illustrations, some of maps and plans included in the journal, and others picture of Samantha and Nipper and their adventures. The latter contribute to the reader's understanding of the sibling relationship between the two kids. 

Samantha Spinner and the Super-Secret Plans ends with the start of the siblings' next adventure, presumably releasing next year. I think this series is a fun addition to the ranks of adventure stories for kids. Ginns definitely crosses the line into fantasy throughout the book, but it's still heavily grounded in the real world (and full of interesting tidbits about the world, too). This is one that I'll save for my daughter to read in a couple of years. Recommended for elementary and middle school libraries.  

Publisher: Delacorte Press (@RandomHouseKids
Publication Date: February 13, 2018
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: February 2: Multicultural Books, #GrowthMindset, #Play, and Book Prizes + Awards

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include: #BookLists, #Cybils Awards, #DiverseBooks, #GrowingBookworms, #GrowthMindset, #MCBD, #OwnVoices, #play, #Reading, #ReadingLogs, book awards, Doug Green, literacy, parenting, Rick Riordan, thrillers, and writing.

GroundhugDayAlso, since today is Groundhog Day, I'd like to share the link a book that I reviewed late last year: Groundhug Day by Anne Marie Pace and Christopher Denise. It's super-cute and well worth a look! 

Book Lists

Children's Books About and Determination, a

DayGloBrothersEverything Old Is New Again: Fantastic You May Have Forgotten —

Cybils Awards

Today's featured REVIEW is Fiction Finalist Piecing Me Together by from | Review by

Today's featured REVIEW is finalist Bull by David Elliott from | Review by

Today's featured REVIEW: Speculative Fiction finalist They Both Die at the End by | review by

Events + Programs

MCBDA Few Words on the recently celebrated Multicultural Children's Book Day from | + Valarie Budayr

Dragons Oh My! announces the winners of her 9th Annual “Be a Famous Writer” Contest | Judges included +

WRAD2018When we , we change the world! Ideas to celebrate from  https://t.co/hep29eIuTO

Growing Bookworms

RT @LiteracyForTX: Ten suggestions for how any teacher can help cultivate a love for reading. We think a Read-a-Thon sounds fun!

The Power of Listening | as a ritual in an ever-louder, distraction-filled world, by https://t.co/jeHAB9JQ0K (written for World Read Aloud Day, but the ideas are timeless)

Kidlitosphere

Lots of tidbits in Morning Notes: Road Trip Edition — , ,

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

AruShahNew "Rick Riordan Presents" Imprint Gets Underway! | answers questions |

Don’t Forget to Read! – Why you should make the time, plus tips for finding "exciting new books" from https://t.co/whqXKyKlhU

This is kind of cool: Prize launched for thrillers that avoid sexual violence against women | https://t.co/lrGPclbNM1

Did you resolve to read more this year? has some suggestions |

Parenting + Play

To is to . Time to step back and let kids be kids | World Economic Forum https://t.co/WlFdZLr0YE

How to Raise Bright Children - 6 positive strategies for encouraging via | 6. Make sure + are valued

RT @MindshiftKQED: The happiest teens use digital media less than an hour per day, according to this study. https://t.co/ehMSEcAkbn

Taking Playtime Seriously | | Pulling back on programmed learning, leaving time for exploration + fun | https://t.co/Rwp6l41ldR

Schools and Libraries

TeachingIsntRocketScienceSeems like this would be interesting, though I haven't read it: Teaching Isn't Rocket Science, It's Way More Complex by (I follow his blow) via

"How many ... systems and procedures do we put in place without really examining the unintended consequences of these procedures?" | |

8 Ways for to Help Older Kids Develop a Sense of the Vital Skill that is |

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.


Your One & Only: Adrianne Finlay

Book: Your One & Only
Author: Adrianne Finlay
Pages: 320
Age Range: 13 and up

YourOneAndOnlyYour One & Only is a new post-apocalyptic dystopian novel for young adults by Adrianne Finlay. It's set in a future Costa Rican village populated by Homo Factus, the followup generation that was created after humans died off from the Slow Plague. Vispera is one of three villages, each populated by 10 generations of 10 clones each from nine models (900 citizens total).

Althea-310 is one of the 10 Althea models in her teen age group, nearly identical to her nine sisters save a scar on her wrist. She knows what she'll look like as she ages, due to the presence of eight older generations of Altheas. Representatives of each of the nine genetic models also take on similar attributes and jobs as one another. The citizens communicate orally, but also via a genetically enhanced system of bonding that causes them to feel one another's emotions. Althea-310's peaceful life changes, however, when she becomes emotionally involved with an "experiment", a boy named Jack who was cloned from 300 year old unmodified human DNA. 

I wasn't sure about this book at first - the premise felt like a particularly contrived dystopia. Why keep everyone identical? Why only reproduce by cloning instead of naturally? But Finlay won me over as she revealed (slowly) the answers to these and other questions. 

I think that teens will particularly like Your One & Only.  Cloning strikes at fundamental questions of identity, particularly when the clones are emotionally bonded to one another to the point of having scarcely any independence. This tension is set against a dramatic plot focused on survival, and one with a couple of unexpected twists. Your One & Only also has my favorite feature of dystopias, bread crumbs about the humans who came before (mostly in the form of books that Jack is given to read). 

The strongest feature of this book, though, is the characterization. Which is pretty impressive when you consider the similarities of many of the characters. It would be impossible not to empathize with Althea-310 and Jack. Other characters are a bit tougher to appreciate, but this keeps them interesting. 

One note about content. There are many references to the young clones "Pairing" with one another (having ritualized sex). Although there are no graphic details, I would still categorize Your One & Only more for high school than middle school because of this. The Pairing is a significant plot point, not just something mentioned in passing. There's also a note that the Pairings are always with "one female and one male." Sexual diversity is no more allowed in Vispera than genetic diversity. 

Your One & Only appears to be a standalone novel, although a certain ambiguity of the ending leaves open the possibility for a sequel. I would certainly read a sequel, interested to see where Finlay takes her intriguing characters and strong world-building next. Highly recommended, and well worth a look for libraries serving young adults (and adults, too). 

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (@HMHKids)
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: January 26: Teaching #Math via Stories, #Mystery + #GraphicNovel Awards, #28DaysLater

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookLists, #Cybils, #DiverseBooks, #GrowthMindset, #math, #ReadAloud, #ReadingChoice, #ReadYourWorld, #STEAM, #STEM, book awards, Edgar Awards, growing bookworms, reading, and schools.

Top Tweet of the Week

TuesdayUsing Stories to Teach | |

Book Lists + Awards

New trend identified by | “It’s a Book About Nothing”

RA RA Read: Stories without words

PrincessInBlack36 Titles with Strong Female Characters from to | from https://t.co/sfEZ2q8D5T

Beyond : 30 Fantasy Adventure Series Starring Mighty Girls |  https://t.co/gyMpcIhXdb

MWA Announces 2018 Nominations, including + categories

Press Release Fun: Excellence in Graphic Literature Awards Now Accepting Submissions —

Cybils Awards

2017 Reactions from authors + publishers, Part 2 | We love the enthusiasm!

CreepyUnderwearToday's featured REVIEW: Fiction finalist Creepy Pair of Underwear! by + | Review by |

Today's featured REVIEW: senior high finalist Alice Paul and the Fight for Women’s Rights | review by |

Today's featured REVIEW is middle grade fiction finalist The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by , reviewed by Greg Pattridge  | from

Events + Programs

RT @PragmaticMom: Ideas from Supporters on how to Celebrate Multicultural Children's Book Day 2018! via

These kids started a for minority boys. It’s the most popular club in school.

28dayslogo (1)They're here! The 2018 Honorees for https://t.co/kj2ga4PG9h

Growing Bookworms

5 Reasons To Start To Your Baby by Yasmin Cole | Bonding, pre-linguistic skills + more

Middle school kids get real-time data on | | Dashboard display gets more involved

How to Foster a Through | Do NOT level the classroom library + more |

Five ways to boost for pleasure in primary | Rachel Lopiccolo https://t.co/B5qgMBJewA

My Preschooler Is Desperate to Learn to Read! What Can I Do? | Some ideas from Lindsay Barrett |

5 essentials in creating a rich reading environment and a community of enthusiastic (developing) readers | Challenge  https://t.co/rLXmtPS8FB

Kidlitosphere

MikeMulliganSome fun tidbits in Morning Notes: Mike Mulligan Dabbing Edition —

The Inexpensive Way to Keep Up With the Oscar Contenders — Read their equivalents, says

Parenting

Want to Raise Kids Who Won't Give Up Easily? Teach Them the 'Batman Effect' | via

RT @CommonSenseMedia: Your child will gain the most from you as you role model enthusiasm for learning, and offer encouragement and support for their curiosity. (via https://t.co/4id2SZT05g

Schools and Libraries

Dealing with digital distraction - should devices be banned in college classrooms so students can focus? https://t.co/gHt6HtHj3d

Guidance On Which Program to Purchase | One that "supports choice, independent reading time... and (that) being a reader is something good" says https://t.co/FuOXZR5TnA

STEM

MotivatedRT @EdWeekTeacher: We clearly are not conveying the depth and richness of math in the way we tend to teach it, says.

Spark with -

Sigh. Students don't pursue because it's too hard, say 52% of Americans | | Why is this?

RT @MindShiftKQED: How do we integrate into every part of math class? The first big obstacle is embedded in American culture. It has become acceptable to brag about *not* being “a math person.” That has to stop. https://t.co/0IV9wx6WOj

Making Math a Family Thing | Strategies for + for closing the gap between home + | via

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.


The Ambrose Deception: Emily Ecton

Book: The Ambrose Deception
Author: Emily Ecton
Pages: 368
Age Range: 9-12

AmbroseDeceptionThe Ambrose Deception by Emily Ecton begins as three unconventional students are selected from their respective Chicago middle schools to compete in a contest for a $10,000 scholarship. Melissa, Bondi, and Wilf are each given three clues to solve, as well as a car and driver, a debit card, and a (not so modern) cell phone to help them. The clues are cryptic instructions like "Go to 1910 for ice cream, then stick around to watch the newborns." The three kids start out working independently (as ordered), but eventually interact with one another. As they start to make progress, they also start to realize that something isn't quite right about the contest. ("Deception" is right there in the title, after all.) Application of their wits becomes even more important. 

The book is something of an ode to Chicago, with clues and locations specific to details of the city, famous and obscure. One doesn't need to be familiar with these things to appreciate the book, however. It's fun regardless to watch the children run around the city, figuring things out. 

The three kids all have quite different backgrounds and personalities. These are painted clearly without slowing down the action. Wilf, in particular, takes advantage of the opportunities provided by the car and driver, and the debit card, and initially doesn't try very hard at the contest. Melissa, currently selling homework solutions in order to support her impoverished family, is much more motivated, as is "Mr. Personality" Bondi, despite attempts by his friends to distract him.

 The perspective in the book shifts between the three students, in short sections, with occasional diversions to others (like the drivers, interesting characters in their own right). There are notes, lists, emails and text exchanges sprinkled throughout the book. The chalkboard that the drivers use to communicate also pops up from time to time. All of this, makes The Ambrose Deception an enticing book for reluctant readers.

I think that any kid who enjoys solving puzzles, reading about quests, or laughing at a boy who eats hot dogs from so many different venues that he becomes ill, will enjoy The Ambrose Deception. The ending is particularly satisfying. This would be a great title to add to libraries serving elementary and middle school students. It's one that I'll keep for my daughter for when she's just a bit older. Highly recommended!

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion (@DisneyHyperion))
Publication Date: February 13, 2018
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: January 19: Letter Grades, #BookLists, #Cybils Reviews + Creating Book Buzz

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookLists, #Cybils, #DiverseBooks, #GrowingBookworms, #PictureBooks, #ReadAloud, #STEM, book awards, book reviews, boredom, Finland, grades, grammar, Guys Lit Wire, learning styles, parenting, reading, and schools. It's good to be back sharing interesting links! Sorry I missed last week. 

Top Tweet of the Week

Will Letter Grades Survive in the face of new systems for student + ? |

Book Lists

TheRescuersRA RA Read: A Guide to Cozy Mouse Stories, both individual + series, from Jennifer Wharton

2018 – Part 1 | w/ details from

Newbery / Caldecott 2018: Final Prediction Edition —

This is a nice PLANETESME PICKS: Best of 2017 from

Cybils

SpirithuntersToday's featured REVIEW: elementary/middle grade speculative fiction finalist Spirit Hunters by , reviewed by

Catching up on featured REVIEWS: elementary/middle grade finalist Shark Lady by +Marta Alvarez Miguens, reviewed by

Catching up on featured REVIEWS: Jan. 10: Easy Reader Finalist We Need More Nuts! (, Level 2) by | review by Jennifer Wharton

Catching up on recent featured REVIEWS: Jan 8: fiction finalist The Hate U Give by | Review by

Today's featured REVIEW is speculative fiction finalist Wonder Woman: Warbringer, reviewed by

Growing Bookworms

TheYesBrainHow with Your Children Can Help Them Develop a ‘Yes Brain’ | Daniel J. Siegel + Tina Payne Bryson |

How To Use To Help Your Grandkids Fall in Love with , guest post by Susan Day https://t.co/xORJBvzCra

Small Ideas For Creating Visible Book Buzz in from | Lists of favorites, books to be read + more https://t.co/SybjuCbija

Kidlitosphere

GuysLitWireSaying Goodbye to Guys Lit Wire, a blog that has shared many great recommendations for for boys over the years

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Cybils-Logo-2017-Web-ButtonThoughts on + Suggestions for Pushing Your Boundaries by https://t.co/qp71E1TB4g   [Including book awards]

Does Spellcheck Make “Learners” More Intelligent? –

Parenting

Oh yes! I agree w/ 100% on Why We Need to Bore Our Kids

Schools and Libraries

should Nurture Each Child's version of 'Smart' - https://t.co/MXgOsjnzW0

8 reasons Finland's system puts the US model to shame - via https://t.co/TC3BPsntYh

STEM

Why practices should be taught across the entire curriculum - Australia via

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.


Growing Bookworms Newsletter: January 17: Lots of Reading But Not So Much Blogging

JRBPlogo-smallToday, I will be sending out a new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter contains content from my blog focused on growing joyful learners, mainly bookworms, but also mathematicians and learners of all types. The newsletter is sent out every two to three weeks.

Newsletter Update:  In this issue I have two book reviews (both middle grade) and two posts with links that I shared recently on Twitter. I've been ill since New Year's, and have not been able to blog very much. I have been able to read about a book a day since the start of the new year, so there is an upside to all of this time in bed, but my blogging has definitely suffered. 

Reading Update: For those who are interested in such things, in 2017 I read 65 middle grade, 23 young adult, and 72 adult titles, for a total of 160 books read (just above my very informal goal of 150, though not as balanced by age range as I would have liked). You can see the full list here. In the last four weeks I finished three middle grade, two young adult, and thirteen adult titles. I read/listened to: 

I'm currently listening to The Wanted by Robert Crais (Elvis Cole and Joe Pike). I'm reading Fall from Grace by Tim Weaver, a random library pick that I'm enjoying, but that is making me wish I had started the series at the beginning. There's a lot of backstory that I'm now familiar with, so it would be tough to go back and read the earlier books. Ah well. Lesson learned. 

HarryPotterPhoenixMy daughter and I have started reading Harry Potter Five (The Order of the Phoenix). I really wanted to wait until the summer to start it, but she got a lot of Harry Potter stuff for Christmas, and she just couldn't wait. So far she's not finding it too dark, but we're at a pretty early point. She was giddy with delight over Petunia Dursley receiving a howler.  

For her own reading, she was very sad to come to the end of the Dork Diaries books and has been re-reading the books and reading the spinoff Max Crumbley series. Sadly, there are only two of those. She finally read and enjoyed the first Jedi Academy book, which I had purchased for her months ago. She had refused to read it because it wasn't a graphic novel, but once she did read it she immediately hit me up for the other books in the series. 

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms. I do hope to get my blog back up to speed eventually, but it will probably take a while. As illnesses go, this one is really lingering. Luckily I have books!

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


The Van Gogh Deception: Deron Hicks

Book: The Van Gogh Deception
Author: Deron Hicks
Pages: 320
Age Range: 10-12

VanGoghDeceptionThe Van Gogh Deception by Deron Hicks is a suspenseful, smart, fast-paced mystery for middle grade readers. The story begins when a boy with amnesia is discovered one December day in the National Gallery in Washington, DC. When the boy, dubbed Art, is sent to temporary foster care, he meets Camille, a strong-willed young red-head. It turns out, however, that dangerous people are looking for Art. Soon he and Camille find themselves on the run, trying to solve the mystery of Art's past and determine whether or not a recently discovered Van Gogh is real or fake. 

Classic art, and the way it might be forged, is discussed throughout the story. There are QR codes included in the book, wherever a famous piece of art is mentioned. Readers can scan the codes to bring up a picture of each artwork. I didn't personally need that distraction after looking at one or two, but I'm sure this will be fun for many young readers. 

What makes The Van Gogh Deception fun for me is the quick-wittedness of Art and Camille, and the fast pace of their adventures. Art, though he can't remember anything about himself, knows a lot about art, and he has instincts that cause his pursuers to liken him to Jason Bourne. Camille, while lacking Art's educational background, is a firebrand and a loyal friend, a more than worthy sidekick for Art. The characters of the Camille's mother and a concerned police detective are also strong, though Hicks never lets them take over the story, or do any real rescuing. Even the bad guy is intriguing, definitely not a one-note criminal stereotype. 

I read this book so quickly that I didn't stop to flag any quotable passages. But it's unquestionably cerebral as well as action-packed, perfect for mystery fans of all ages (10 and up). 

The Van Gogh Deception belongs in libraries serving upper middle grade and middle school readers everywhere. It has a great cover, and an irresistible premise (amnesia is always compelling, as is art theft/forgery). Highly recommended, and one I will be passing on to my daughter when she is just a bit older. 

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (@HMHKids)
Publication Date: August 29, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: January 5: The #Cybils Shortlists, #SchoolLibraries, and Love of #Reading

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter over the past two weeks @JensBookPage. While there hasn't been a lot going on in the kidlit blogosphere over the holidays, the big news is that the Cybils shortlists were announced on New Year's Day. Other topics included: #FlexibleSeating, #GrowthMindset, book fairs, bookstores, growing bookworms, independent learners, inspiration, libraries, raising readers, recess, schools, and writing.

Top Tweet of the Week

How to Stop Killing the Love of | talks w/ | https://t.co/R2ONY4OWzC

Cybils Awards

Cybils-Logo-2017-Round-SmThe 2017 Finalists are live! High-quality, kid-friendly titles in 12 categories + more

The 2017 Middle Grade Fiction Finalists, with blurbs, from category chair

The shortlists are here! Category organizer has the elementary / middle grade speculative fiction shortlist

We are grateful to for sharing the relevant 2017 Awards Finalists with their readers  https://t.co/jFih690QI0

SpirithuntersCybils Finalists Are Live! | shares her panel's speculative fiction choices https://t.co/RbKAQ3fcyk

Announcement! Announcement! Announcement! from | 2017 Finalists! https://t.co/0ix53uTPMg

Reading Round-Up, Part 2 from co-blog editor and round 1 panelist https://t.co/tDdcCQHOp4

Today's featured REVIEW is nominee The Playbook, reviewed by

Today's featured REVIEW is Jr. High nominee Beastly Brains | review by

BeyondBrightSeaToday's featured REVIEW is middle grade fiction nominee Beyond the Bright Sea, review by Tara Smith

On the blog: 2017 Finalist Reactions! | So great to see this enthusiasm from + authors, illustrators + publishers

Events + Programs

The 6th National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, 2018-2019 is | News release at via

Growth Mindset

RT: @MindshiftKQED:What's the most effective way to praise girls? Compliment them for taking on difficulty, trying different strategies and sticking to it over time. Not for how smart they are. https://t.co/JHSHofib5E

Miscellaneous

20 Inspirational Quotes to Start off 2018 from | "Stay positive and happy" + lots more

Schools and Libraries

I love this! A School Library’s Free Bookstore Turbocharges | | librarian's former office = bookstore w/ used + donated books [Though if they could find a way to do this without "book bucks" based on AR points, I would love it more.]

Students: How a 'Quiet Revolution' Is Changing Classroom Practice - via  https://t.co/DCLtqouMqX

BookLoveHow My High School Doubled Its Circulation | | teacher + librarian enthusiasm, + more

Move Over, : Launches Book Fairs | | Parents want fewer non-book items

Guiding to Be

3 Ways to Make the Process More Authentic by

This Is Why Schools Need To Stop Taking Away Recess As A Form Of Punishment, thoughts + links from https://t.co/kQLCZczqdX

Thoughts from On as part of encouraging flexible thinking in the https://t.co/TngiByNayh

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.


The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade: Jordan Sonnenblick

Book: The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade
Author: Jordan Sonnenblick
Pages: 208
Age Range: 9-12

SecretSheriffThe Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade is the latest middle grade novel by Jordan Sonnenblick, who has a gift for using humor to take the edge of off difficult subjects (having a sibling with cancer, e.g.). In The Secret Sheriff, Sonnenblick introduces readers to sixth grader Maverick Falconer. Maverick lives in poverty with his alcoholic mom, his dad having been killed in the line of military duty. In addition to coping with his mother's benders and her abusive boyfriend, Maverick struggles with being much shorter than average (mild implication of fetal alcohol syndrome), and with being the target of bully Bowen. Despite these challenges, or perhaps because of them, Maverick decides at the start of the school year that he's going to be a secret sheriff, looking for opportunities to help people. Things don't go as planned, however, and Maverick ends up in the vice principal's office twice on the very first day. 

Without being heavy-handed about, Sonnenblick includes plenty of details that make the challenges of Maverick's situation clear. He can't afford the $10 fee for gym clothes. The vice principal can't call his mother in because she doesn't have a car, and might not be sober. His hamster is missing a foot, a damaged animal that a kind-hearted pet shop owner gave to child who couldn't afford an unmarked pet. And lots more. Here are a couple of examples, in Maverick's voice:

"As far as I could figure it, anybody with two parents had nothing i the world to complain about. It was a little hard to be sure, though. I hadn't had a father since I was three. All I even had to remember him by was a cheap little plastic sheriff's star he had bought me at a beachside souvenir shop on the last day I had ever spent with him. I vaguely remember that I had been angry about something, and he'd gotten me the star to cheer me up." (Page 8)

"I had heard of fresh berries and cream. Fresh berries and cream sounded awesome. Fresh anything sounded awesome. We never had fresh food in our house. Or even cooked food. The only time my mom lit a stove burner was when she ran out of matches and needed to fire up a cigarette." (Page 10)

But there's humor, too. Like this:

"A massive hand tapped me on the shoulder. I whirled and literally banged into the protruding stomach of the largest man I had ever seen in my life. He had to be at least six and a half feet tall, with super-broad shoulders, that big belly, a bushy red handlebar mustache, and wild red hair. If Santa Claus had married a Viking queen, their firstborn son would have looked like this dude." (Page 21)

The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade also features excellent characterization. No one is all bad or all good, though one has to look pretty hard to find the good in some of them. I especially appreciated the nuances of the vice principal (the Santa/Viking hybrid described above). Maverick has an aunt who is able to provide something of a safety net for him, but even she has her quirks. 

I think that The Secret Sheriff would be an excellent read for middle schoolers, providing a window (or mirror) into poverty and substance abuse, but also providing constructive ideas about making the world (or at least one's school) better. I'll be happy to have my daughter read this book when she's a bit older - it may make her a bit more appreciative of having two parents, and being able to afford things like new sneakers when she needs them. And if not, she'll probably still enjoy Maverick's scrapes. Recommended, and a must for middle school libraries. 

Publisher: Scholastic  (@Scholastic
Publication Date: August 29, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: December 22: Bookish Gifts, A Readerly Life, and Literacy via #GraphicNovels

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics during this relatively light week include #BookLists, #Cybils, #GiftGuides, #GraphicNovels, #GrowingBookworms, #PictureBooks, #STEM, Christmas, creativity, schools, and science.

I suspect, with the holidays coming up, and my daughter out of school for the next two weeks, that this will be my last post of the year. Wishing all who celebrate it a joyous Christmas, and a happy and healthy New Year to all. Thanks for reading!

Book Lists + Gift Guides

AfterTheFallFavorite , 1st and 2nd Grade Edition, Fall 2017 from Chicken Spaghetti, w/ list of book-finding resources https://t.co/yMKAQWwkpH

Books You Can Sing, a that made for her toddler niece

Challenge: NSTA 2018 Outstanding Trade Books & Books | from

27 Great Books to Share at Christmas, some focused on bible, others on values + traditions, from

Some fun stuff on this | 50 Bookish Gifts for Mighty Girl Book Lovers

Cybils

AllsFaireToday's featured REVIEW: middle grade nominee All’s Faire in Middle School from , reviewed by

Today's featured REVIEW: nominee When Your Lion Needs a Bath from , review by Tiffa Foster

Today's featured REVIEW: Elem/MG nominee Ghosts of Greenglass House, review by

Growing Bookworms

13 Keys To Nurturing A Readerly Life from | Model , give students choice, + more

ChristmasForBearTime to put ‘a book on every bed’ for morning (or whatever holiday you celebrate), a reminder from

foster says Lydia Olsen in | "Kids who struggle reading traditional books might do better with comics"

Parenting

20 Great Holiday or Travel Activities for Kids (5-15), many themed, from

Schools and Libraries

BunnysBookClubUsing in the Middle School | Students are never too old |

What Is That?": How We Unwittingly Dampen Children's Creative Development - | Describe what you see in a child's art

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.


Growing Bookworms Newsletter: December 20: 12th Blog Birthday Edition

JRBPlogo-smallToday, I will be sending out a new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter contains content from my blog focused on growing joyful learners, mainly bookworms, but also mathematicians and learners of all types. The newsletter is sent out every two to three weeks.

Newsletter Update:  In this issue I have three book reviews (all early chapter books) and one post about my daughter's latest literacy milestone (understanding someone else's need to read). I also have three posts with links that I shared recently on Twitter

Blog Birthday: This edition of the Growing Bookworms Newsletter marks my recently passed 12th anniversary of starting this blog. It's hard to imagine now that on December 17th I somehow had time to start a blog, but that seems to have been the case. Many thanks to those of you who have been stopping by the blog over these past 12(!) years. Recently my blogging (and especially reviewing) has been a bit more limited than usual. I'm hoping to get my groove back after the New Year. 

Reading Update: In the last three weeks I finished fifteen middle grade, and five adult titles. Most of the  middle grade were actually early graphic novels that I read aloud to my daughter. I read/listened to: 

  • Jennifer L. Holm (ill. Matthew Holm): Babymouse #11: Dragonslayer. Random House Children's Books. Early Graphic Novel. Completed November 29, 2017, read aloud to my daughter.
  • AmbroseDeceptionEmily Ecton: The Ambrose Deception. Disney-Hyperion. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed November 29, 2017, print ARC. Review to come, closer to publication. 
  • Jarrett J. Krosoczka: Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians (Book 2). Random House Children's Books. Early Graphic Novel. Completed November 30, 2017, read aloud to my daughter.
  • Jarrett J. Krosoczka: Lunch Lady and the Author Visit Vendetta (Book 3). Random House Children's Books. Early Graphic Novel. Completed December 1, 2017, read aloud to my daughter.
  • Jarrett J. Krosoczka: Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown (Book 4). Random House Children's Books. Early Graphic Novel. Completed December 3, 2017, read aloud to my daughter.
  • Jarrett J. Krosoczka: Lunch Lady and the Bake Sale Bandit (Book 5). Random House Children's Books. Early Graphic Novel. Completed December 4, 2017, read aloud to my daughter.
  • Jarrett J. Krosoczka: Lunch Lady and the Field Trip Fiasco (Book 6). Random House Children's Books. Early Graphic Novel. Completed December 5, 2017, read aloud to my daughter.
  • Jarrett J. Krosoczka: Lunch Lady and the Mutant Mathletes (Book 7). Random House Children's Books. Early Graphic Novel. Completed December 5, 2017, read aloud to my daughter.
  • LunchLady10Jarrett J. Krosoczka: Lunch Lady and the Schoolwide Scuffle (Book 10). Random House Children's Books. Early Graphic Novel. Completed December 6, 2017, read aloud to my daughter.
  • Jennifer L. Holm (ill. Matthew Holm): Babymouse #5: Heartbreaker. Random House Children's Books. Early Graphic Novel. Completed December 8, 2017, read aloud to my daughter. My review.
  • Jennifer L. Holm (ill. Matthew Holm): Babymouse #10: The Musical. Random House Children's Books. Early Graphic Novel. Completed December 11, 2017, read aloud to my daughter.
  • Jennifer L. Holm (ill. Matthew Holm): Babymouse #9: Monster Mash. Random House Children's Books. Early Graphic Novel. Completed December 12, 2017, read aloud to my daughter.
  • Jennifer L. Holm (ill. Matthew Holm): Babymouse #12: Burns Rubber. Random House Children's Books. Early Graphic Novel. Completed December 13, 2017, read aloud to my daughter.
  • Jennifer L. Holm (ill. Matthew Holm): Babymouse #9: Puppy Love. Random House Children's Books. Early Graphic Novel. Completed December 14, 2017, read aloud to my daughter.
  • SecretSheriffJordan Sonnenblick: The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade. Scholastic. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed December 18, 2017. Review to come.
  • Carlene O'Connor: Murder in an Irish Village (Book 1). Kensington. Adult Mystery. Completed November 30, 2017, on MP3. This is a new series that I listened to on audio and enjoyed, despite occasionally wanting to shake the protagonist by the shoulders and tell her to wise up. 
  • Lee Child: The Midnight Line. Delacorte Press. Adult Thriller. Completed December 7, 2017, on MP3. This I liked much better than Child's last couple of Reacher installments. 
  • Chris Knopf: The Last Refuge (Sam Acquillo). Permanent Press. Adult Mystery. Completed December 11, 2017, on Kindle. This one dragged a bit for me, though I did finish it. 
  • Carlene O'Connor: Murder at an Irish Wedding (Book 2). Kensington. Adult Mystery. Completed December 12, 2017, on MP3. 
  • Janet Evanovich: Hardcore Twenty-Four. G. P. Putnam's Sons. Adult Mystery. Completed December 15, 2017, on MP3. This installment of the Stephanie Plum series had an even less plausible plot than usual (involving zombies), but still a fun listen. 

LionWitchI'm currently listening to Blood Hollow (Cork O'Connor series, book 4) by William Kent Krueger. I also have a stack of new children's and YA books on my nightstand, and haven't decided which of those to read next.

After a period where my daughter and I read nothing together but Lunch Lady and Babymouse books during her breakfasts, I've just started reading her The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis. I'm happy that she is engaged in it, despite the relative dearth of illustrations. This is interesting for me, too, because it's been decades since I read it. And yes, I'm going by the original book order, starting with this one. One thing that contributed to her interest in reading the book, I should note, was that it's mentioned in one of the Babymouse books. This makes it cool, I think. 

DorkDiaries8For her own reading, she is continuing to work her way through the Dork Diaries books. Yesterday we borrowed Dork Diaries 8 from her friend, and she stayed up late reading until she had finished (it's almost vacation, right?). 

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms. Wishing you all a joyful Christmas, or whatever holidays you celebrate, and a book-filled New Year. 

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook